Friday, August 10, 2007

Bear with me on this one...

So, last night I was watching my DVD of Season 2 of The Muppet Show (which is fantastic, by the way) and the Rich Little episode came on. Now, Rich Little is pretty awful. He does a bit where he does impressions of Fozzie, Kermit, and Piggy and none of them are even recognizable (I do much better Muppet voices, thank you very much). His impressions are cartoonish and often way off base (how hard is it to do a Bing Crosby, for god's sake?). But that's beside the point. He did a number where he recreated scenes from classic movie musicals, and when he did "I Remember It Well" from Gigi I thought, "Hey, that's a pretty good Maurice Chevalier." Wait a minute, did I just think that? Where the hell did that come from?

I couldn't pick Maurice Chevalier out of a line of two people. Why did I know 1)Who this guy is, and 2) that Rich Little's impression of him was pretty good? I've never seen or heard Chevalier before, really. Well, that's not entirely true. I'm pretty sure XM's broadway channel plays his Gigi recordings fairly frequently, but I didn't know who he was when I heard them so they don't count. So why my sudden expertise on Maurice Chevalier? Then it hit me- The Marx Brothers.

Early in the week, my boss was out of town and I filled some of the downtime by going through some of my Marx Brothers collection DVDs. In Monkey Business, the brothers are stowaways on a cruise ship and apparently Chevalier is one of the passengers. They manage to steal his passport to try and get off the ship uncaught. In turn, all four of them (Monkey Business does feature Zeppo) imitate Chevalier to prove that it is their passport. Harpo's imitation, which involves a small phonograph, is especially memorable (not to mention the only time I had knowingly heard Chevalier sing). Seeing them all fake their way through "You Brought a New Kind of Love To Me" is a highlight of the film for me. But it apparently was also enough to make me an expert on Maurice Chevalier. It is an introduction to pop culture of the 1930s.

I love pop culture. Heck, I love all trivia, but pop culture is fun. This whole Chevalier fiasco (that should be a movie- The Chevalier Fiasco) has made me realize how much pop culture I absorb second hand. I can reference TV shows and movies I've never seen just because I'm pretty familiar with them. For example, I could pinpoint a scene from Citizen Kane or Dr. Strangelove on sight before I had seen them because I was so familiar with them from The Simpsons. And Animaniacs? Forget about it. I am a font of other people's knowledge. Thank you movies and television, for teaching me all about movies and television.

1 comment:

  1. You can also catch Chevalier in episode 6 of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, "Lucy Goes to Mexico." For some reason Lucy and Maurice Chevalier are driving around, and while he is asleep, Lucy decides to take a detour to Mexico for whatever reason. Then Maurice Chevalier wakes up and informs her that he can't get back into the US because his visa won't allow him to leave and come back. So the rest of the episode is wacky ways of Lucy trying to smuggle Maurice Chevalier back into the country. It's pretty funny. Now that you know Chevalier, you should give Yves Montagne a shot. He was basically the Bing Crosby of France. And by that I mean he was unfunny in movies with Bob Hope and beat his children. But he is a really good singer.